Drink more tea
This article was originally published in March 2014
I am often asked to list just one simple dietary habit that would benefit everyone’s health, regardless of their current dietary patterns — and my response is almost always to drink more tea.
Tea contains no calories, no sugar, no salt — and it is full of catechins, a widely researched antioxidant that elevates tea to superfood status. Tea consumption is associated with longevity around the world, and the most frequent tea drinkers generally have improved heart health, better immune systems, reduced cancer risks, stronger bones and better dental health. Despite its caffeine content, tea can be very relaxing — in part because tea contains theanine, a unique compound that induces relaxation and helps reduce stress.
Green or black?
Green tea always gets singled out as a super food, but all forms of tea (including black, white and oolong) contain antioxidants that are linked to improved health outcomes. Green tea does have the highest levels of these antioxidants and the most research in support of its health benefits. However, all forms of tea are beneficial to your health, so if you don’t enjoy green tea but you do enjoy black or oolong, then that is better than not drinking any tea at all. (Another hidden benefit of tea time is that drinking more tea generally means drinking less soda and other unhealthy, sugary beverages.)
A cup of green tea contains about half as much caffeine as a cup of coffee, and black tea generally contains more caffeine than green tea, although there are many factors that influence the amount of caffeine in a cup of tea — including brew time, water temperature (and amount of water), tea variety (black > oolong > white > green), tea bag versus loose tea, and even the geographical origin of the tea.
You can significantly reduce the amount of caffeine in your tea by pouring off the first (30-sec) steeping of tea and infusing the tea a second time. This can reduce the caffeine content by over 50 percent while still maintaining the catechins and other beneficial compounds in the tea.
- Black, green, white, oolong, pu-erh all come from the same plant; the difference is in how they are processed post-harvest.
- In Japan a cup of tea is just 3.5 oz; in Europe, a cup is 5 oz; and in the U.S., a tea mug usually is 8 oz.
- Tea intake improves dental health, likely from the natural fluoride present in tea.
- Make it a chai. Adding a pinch of pepper enhances the absorption of the catechins found in tea.
- Cook with tea by making a cold brew of green tea —infuse in cold water for 20 to 30 minutes for a delicate, less bitter tea flavor — and add the brew to marinades, broths and stir-fries.
- Reduce the amount of caffeine in your tea by pouring off the first (30-sec) steeping of tea and infusing the tea a second time.
- Tea contains a compound called theanine, which has a relaxing effect and balances out the impact of the caffeine.